Tips for Creating the Best User Experience

Five points to chew on when making your website more effective at being user friendly.

Before diving right in, I want to point out that a website's experience doesn't exist in a "binary scale." Although we often use the words "good" and "bad" as easy-to-understand buckets for problems that a website may have, oftentimes, the "good-ess" (or lack-thereof) of a website doesn't doesn't always neatly fall into one of these buckets.

Over time, I have begun to see choices and elements of a website as "less effective" or "more effective" for the audiences in question. It may go without saying, but even if we were to create 101 personas to inform our decisions when creating a website, there would likely be a tiny handful of people that still have a bad experience. Remember that there will always be edge cases that no matter how hard you prepare for, you may miss.

But that doesn't mean we don't try to cover all of our bases.

The following five points are "food for thought" when it comes to crafting a *more effective* user experience.

 

1. Can you explain yourselves to a five-year-old?

No, really. Can you? While getting my master's degree (in a field only tangentially related to design) my favorite professor would continually grill us to explain complex concepts as simply as we could. "If you can't explain it to a five-year-old, do you really know what you're talking about?"

When I began to study UX/UI design, this sentiment was echoed by my instructors: "Can your grandma come to your website and know how to navigate? Know what your product is? Interact with your designs?"

The more streamlined, simple, and clear you can craft your experience and your product, the less confusion, frustration, and annoyed users there will be.

 

2. Scrolling isn't the problem, it's the journey.

Nowadays, with ipads, ipods, touch screens, and almost every mouse having a scroll wheel, the act of scrolling down a page is not tough to do. Consider how long we may scroll down our Twitter timelines or Instagram feeds. Infinite scrolling has become a design pattern that isn't unfamiliar to us anymore! Scrolling is not an issue. It's how content is laid out that can push users to sigh and close that window.

Using the right typography, the right combination of headers, sizes, and colors, all play a part in how your content is presented to users. If they get bored scrolling down a page that is meant for them and actually has good content for them, it's now a fault of the presentation of said content.

We open presents regardless of the wrapping paper because we're expecting something delightful. We don't eat food that looks unappetizing because we're not sure of how it tastes. Users won't likely read through a giant wall of text unless we can lead and/or show them that's worth their time to do so.

 

3. Create effective contrast.

Typography, size, placement, and color; these all play a part together in crafting and presenting your content. But we can't just throw these onto a page and hope that it comes together well. If the shades of your colors are too close, then nothing stands out. If the shades are too far apart, it may be straining on the eyes. Is your font too big or too small? Are the line lengths too long or too short? If so, you're already likely hindering your users.

The key here isn't necessarily balance, but how you can help certain elements stand out on a page. Headers and call-out text should stand out. Use effective sizes, and font weights to do so. Use your accent color for call-to-actions, and don't have too many CTA's to a page; your user doesn't need more tough decisions to make.

A good way to see if your page has effective contrast is to zoom out, squint, and then see what stands out. If there are too many elements competing with each other when you do this, you may need to reduce what's calling for a user's attention. If you don't see anything that stands out, he'll probably get lost and probably needs some direction.

If you take this point and combine it with the first point, some UX/UI Designers will tell you to have only one major call to action per a page. This isn’t an end-all, be-all commandment, but something to keep in mind if your content is looking a bit cluttered.

Help your users get to where they need to go - use effective contrast.

4. Show who you are.

Before we get to the last point, I want to use number four to encourage everyone reading this to simply be human, and to share some pictures of your staff or your events. Websites are too often filled with stock imagery that doesn’t even fit, or completely void of any human faces. We don’t need another photo of over-the-top smiling faces around a conference and we certainly don’t need another website that just wants us to sign up, and get involved with a faceless machine. I’m not going to say, “use testimonials” or, “hire a professional photographer” but, I will say: utilize your website, your user experience, to sincerely connect with your users. They’ll remember you more for it, I can almost guarantee it.

5. If users like what they see, they’ll engage with it.

The last point may seem simple enough, but too often organizations don’t let their products speak for themselves. Yes, it’s good to craft content so that a grandma or a five-year-old could understand what we’re selling, but even my two-year-old daughter knows when I’m trying to bribe her with gummy vitamins to get into the bathroom for bath time.

If we’ve crafted easy to understand content, presented ourselves and our products clearly, effectively taken the users on a journey, then what we’re showing them should speak for itself. This isn’t to say that we don’t show the benefits of what we’re doing, or even point out ways in which users may save money or time, but if we’ve really done a good job presenting ourselves clearly, they’ll see the value in who we are, how we’ve presented ourselves, and what we’re offering: and they’ll get involved.

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Sean Norton

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